Dear Arizona Voter and VoterValuesProject Survey Respondent,
Many factors are impacting our environment. The biggest factor today is human behavior. Humans are responsible for much of climate change, for the extinction of other species, and also for the mass contamination of our earth, water, and air.
The sixth mass extinction is happening now. Humans have already wiped out hundreds of species and pushed many more to the brink of extinction through wildlife trade, pollution, habitat loss and the use of toxic substances. But the findings published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) show that the rate at which species are dying out has accelerated in recent decades.
Gerardo Ceballos González, a professor of ecology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and one of the authors of the study, said approximately 173 species went extinct between 2001 and 2018. There have been five mass extinction events in the Earth’s history, each wiping out between 70% and 95% of the species of plants, animals and microorganisms. The most recent, 66 million years ago, saw dinosaurs disappear.
The past events were caused by catastrophic alterations of the environment, including massive volcanic eruptions or collision with an asteroid. The sixth mass extinction — the one happening now — is different: Scientists say it’s caused by humans. Read more at : https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1922686117
Extinction breeds extinctions
When one species in the ecosystem disappears, it erodes the entire ecosystem and pushes other species toward annihilation. “When humanity exterminates populations and species of other creatures, it is sawing off the limb on which it is sitting, destroying working parts of our own life-support system,” said Paul Ehrlich, a well known Stanford professor who wrote the controversial 1968 book “The Population Bomb” and is a co-author of the new study.
The current coronavirus crisis shows how the recklessness with which people treat the natural world can backfire badly. “We believe that the recent coronavirus outbreak is linked to wildlife trade and consumption in China. The ban on wildlife trade imposed by the Chinese government could be a major conservation measure for many species on the brink, if imposed properly.” Our bad behavior, failing to care for the earth, has contributed to species extinction. Contamination of our water and land with human generated trash is a major factor in species loss. How can we turn this devastation around?
Recycling in the U.S. Is Broken
In 2018 China banned most imports of recyclable material from the US. Without the Chinese market for plastic — as well as for some types of cardboard, paper, and glass — the U.S. recycling industry was upended. According to the EPA, of the 267.8 million tons of municipal solid waste generated by Americans in 2017, only 94.2 million tons were recycled or composted. Of all the waste produced by humans, other than CO2, plastics are the most damaging to the environment across many ecosystems. Plastics are also the most ubiquitous and the most difficult to recycle.
On any given day, 620 tons of paper, bottles, cans, cardboard and recycled goods fly over conveyor belts and through chutes in Phoenix’s processing plants. But due to the China Ban on recycling imports, Arizona igrappling with what to do with the waste. The move has forced several Arizona cities such as Mesa, Tucson, Surprise, Casa Grande, Sierra Vista and Globe to reduce or eliminate their recycling programs.
What Are the Solutions?
- Reduce plastics production
- Substitute plastic with paper and compostable materials
- Support the use of high quality recycled materials, demand for which is growing
- Develop the technology for sorting and recovering materials
- Reduce the amount of “stuff” we buy, which will reduce what we discard
- Follow the example of cities like San Francisco, which set a goal of “zero waste” for 2020.